Tag Archives: activities

Home Made Sweets 3 – Coconut Ice

Coconut Ice

I love coconut ice.  Unfortunately my children do not. 
Their friends do, though, and they love me for it.
This is a good recipe for you to do with your children over half term.

You might also like to have a go at Fudge and Truffles.


1 x large heavy based pan
1 x cooking thermometer (ideal but not necessary)
1 x shallow 8×10” cake tin (20x25cm ish?)

1lb / 480g granulated sugar
¼ pint /150ml milk
5oz / 150g desiccated coconut
pink or green food colouring
a little butter for greasing the tin

Grease the tin with a little butter
Put the milk and sugar into the pan and put it on a low heat, stirring continuously until the sugar has dissolved
Bring to the boil, then continue on a rolling boil, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches soft ball* or 14oC
Take great care not to let it burn or you will completely spoil the flavour
Take the pan off the heat and add the coconut, mixing it in well
Pour half the mixture into the tin and pop it in the fridge to cool
Add a little food colouring to the remaining mixture and stir well in
Pour the coloured mixture over the first, white, half in the tin
When cool, mark into bars or squares with a sharp knife
Leave to go completely cold then cut it up properly

* I would recommend buying a sugar thermometer if you don’t already have one, as it saves a lot of time dropping boiling gloop into saucers of water.  If you don’t have a thermometer, the mixture has reached ‘Soft Ball’ when a teaspoon of the mixture dropped into cold water forms a soft ball when rolled between your finger and thumb.


Filed under Children, Food, Food Presents, Recipes

Some Last Minute Christmas Tips & Ideas


If, like me, you’ve left everything to the last minute, here are a few Christmas tips and ideas for food, cards, presents and activities.

If you’ve only just made your Christmas Cake, feed it with a teaspoon of brandy three times a day for the next week, then apply the marzipan.  Leave it overnight to dry.  Buy a ready mix packet of Royal Icing Mix and spike it all over.  Supermarkets now have some super and classy-looking ready-made decorations, so pop one of those on the top.

If you’ve left it too late to post your Christmas cards abroad, go out with your camera and take a photograph of something Christmassy.  E-mail this with a short note, and a grovelling apology for your wretchedness, to all your foreign or ex-patriot friends and family.  This could also work with other friends if you’ve really messed it up.

If you’re really stuck for a present for someone, most supermarkets now have a fantastic range of gift cards for both local and larger High Street shops.  I think vouchers are a great gift, especially for difficult teenagers for whom there is absolutely no chance of getting it right unless they’ve given you a list.  Monsoon, HMV, iTunes, book shops, cinemas, restaurants etc – you can’t go wrong.  Click on these links to High Street Vouchers and  The Gift Card Centre and see what’s out there. Fed up with buying expensive wrapping paper that just gets ripped off and thrown away?  Wrap your gifts very neatly with newspaper and tie up the parcels with thick brightly coloured ribbon.  The ribbon can be rolled up and used again and so can the paper.

Can’t think of a gift for an older female friend or relative?  In this cold weather, skin really suffers.  Some really nice hand cream, eg. Crabtree & Evelyn, Molton Brown, Aveda, Floris, and The National Trust does a lovely range of flower scented hand creams and co-ordinating products.  It will be well received, I can assure you.

Men can be terribly difficult to buy for, particularly if the chaps in your life don’t have any discernable hobbies or interests.  Again, vouchers for HMV or a favourite clothes shop will never go to waste, but the following sites have some good ideas.  Presents for Men or Find Me a Gift could give you some clues or what about buying them an activity gift to get them interested in something?  Also a decanter and a bottle of something nice to put in it would surely bring a smile to any bod’s face.  A local antique market would be a great an inexpensive place to start or many high street jewellers sell them now.

Don’t be afraid to ask people what they want.  My family doesn’t see enough of each other to know what we have in our houses and we want to spend our money carefully on something the person really needs or would like as a treat.  Get everyone to make a list and then you know you’ll get it right.  This isn’t cynical and horrid, it’s practical and sensible at a time when people want to spend their money wisely.


Don’t tear your hair out worrying about making Christmas Lunch for the family.  Think of it as Sunday Lunch XL!  It doesn’t have to be a great extravaganza; after all the point of having people over is to share Christmas with them, not to show off how clever you are in the kitchen.  Planning is the key and prepare as much as you can in advance. 

Starters – an unusual soup can be prepared the day before and reheated. Smoked Salmon with some coloured salad leaves and a twist of lemon will never be sneered at or failing that, buy some pre-prepared salmon mousses wrapped in smoked salmon and pop them on a bed or rocket.  Lovely. 

Pudding – Christmas Pud can be reheated in the microwave then served with fresh cream or brandy butter.  If some people don’t like Christmas Pud, make a trifle or make/buy a special ice-cream dessert.  A good cheese board with nice savoury biscuits and fruit takes no effort and can be brought to room temperature while the dinner is cooking.  More importantly, allow people to help you.  There are no prizes for being knackered and grumpy because you feel pressured and put-upon.

Christmas Tea – most people will still be stuffed from lunch so don’t go overboard.  Have a cold collation prepared: cold turkey, nice ham, a bowl of salad and a choice of dressings, some good bread, crisps, Christmas Cake, Mince Pies.  Alternatively buy a selection of party nibbles from a shop and dig in.  Again, get people to muck in and help.

If you’re going to be flying around in the style of a fly with a blue bottom, the trick is to think ahead.  Make (and freeze) or buy a curry sauce and make sure you have some rice in, then on Boxing Day or the day after, if you can’t face any more cooking, a turkey curry can be knocked up in 20 minutes.


Christmas can be a time when people can get grumpy and dyspeptic if not carefully managed.  Think about having a walk before it gets dark to allow the grown ups to walk off their lunch and to let the children run off a bit of steam.  Everyone will feel better for it and it breaks up the day.

Have some games planned that everyone can join in with and have a laugh.  Charades or Give Us a Clue can involve the whole family as can Trivial Pursuit.  Heads, Bodies and Legs is easy for little ones and more fun than you’d think, likewise Consequences, where everyone writes a line of an agreed story and then passes the paper round and everyone writes the next line etc.  Kerplunk had us all in  stitches last year as did the game where someone sticks the name of a person on your forehead and you have to ask questions until you guess who it is.

I would also suggest that you discourage the children from sitting in front of their new computer games all day.  It’s rather bad manners to ignore everyone else like that, the game isn’t going to go away.  Take the opportunity to make the day something out of the ordinary and have a bit of fun!


Filed under Christmas, Community and shopping, Family and Friends


Am I the only parent in the world who looks forward to the school holidays?  I was in a shop the other day, buying children’s things, and a brief conversation was struck up with the assistant. 

“I can’t wait for the holidays” I said.
“Ooh, are you going somewhere nice” asked Assistant
“No,” said I,  “I’m just really looking forward to spending some time with my children”.
She looked at me aghast.  “You are the first person I’ve heard who’s said that.  Everyone else has been in here moaning about how much they’re dreading the school holidays.  That’s really nice.”

My only problem with the holidays is finding childcare for the days when I’m obliged to be elsewhere.  During term time, everything is such a rush; rushing to school, trying to remember all the thousands of things they seem to need and all the insidious and constant amounts of money requested for this and that, rushing to clubs, rushing to finish dinner before choir/scouts/football, trying to get them in bed at a sensible time.

I love the holidays because we don’t have to get up so early and we can stay up late watching a film and eating chocolate because we can sleep in.  I love going places with them or just staying in and chatting or playing a game.  I like being able to have their friends round without being stressed to the gills because I’ve got too many other things to do and therefore resent their presence. I like having the time to do cooking with them or ‘crafty’ things.  Also, we really get our moneysworth out of our English Heritage and National Trust cards and, with English Heritage, I can take a couple of their friends along as well.

This last term has been a nightmare.  We have moved house, tried to negotiate the financial minefield that comes with moving, failed to get the house into a decent state yet which is driving me insane, started the long, arduous and stressful business of trying to get Boy the Elder into another school (as yet unsuccessfully) and watched my car slowly deteriorating because I have no money to repair it.  Oh, and whilst this is all going on, I have been trying to lay the groundwork for a new business using a computer that was run by one-legged, shell-shocked goblins.  I’m sure I’m no worse off than anyone else, but it’s all been a bit of a slog.

The Boys and I are knackered and I cannot wait for Friday afternoon and the start of the six week summer break.


Filed under Family and Friends, Indoor Activities, Leisure, Life in general, Outdoor Activities

Scouting for Scones

We will do our best

We will do our best

On Friday, the elder of The Boys went off to camp with The Scouts.  A small troop of Scouts have come over from Belgium and are spending the weekend with our troop, which will include games, an English High Tea and camping in the field behind the Scout hut.  The following day they were hiking in The Peak District .  Many of these children have met before and a good relationship is building between them.

My sons are not sporty. They are tall, thin people with vivid imaginations and a passion for books; they do not excel on the football or the rugby field and they are not competitive.  Boy the Elder once took 10 minutes to run a 50yard fancy dress relay because he felt the clothes in his lane didn’t suit him, so decided to try on those of his competitors instead. But put them in a field with trees, bits of wood, mud and unsavoury things in hedgerows and they are quite happily occupied for long periods of time, with only a portion of their day dedicated to fighting each other with sticks or heavy objects.

Boy the Elder joined the Cubs and then graduated to Scouts and it is the activity he cares about more than anything else.  We are blessed with unbelievably dedicated Leaders, who give an astonishing amount of their free time to The Scouts, taking them climbing, hiking, swimming, making up games, teaching them practical skills and teamwork and all done in an atmosphere of support, encouragement, humour and no nonsense.

It seems to be one of the few organisations left for young people where, although every care is taken over their safety and happiness, they are pushed to achieve; not in a horrid aggressive way, but for themselves, to find the best in themselves.  The values inherent in Scouting are about respect, kindness, loyalty, independence and self reliance, good behaviour, courtesy, structure and tolerance, things that seem regrettably lacking in many areas of modern life.

In the past year, scores of new Cub, Scout and Explorer troops have been set up all over the countryto cope with the increasing demand from parents who are becoming aware of the value and impact of Scouting for their children.  You may not know that most Scout troops now have equal numbers of boys and girls and this creates a very healthy and jolly atmosphere.  Boy the Younger can’t wait.

So last week, to give the Belgian Scouts the experience of a good English High Tea, the Wartime Housewife volunteered to make a big batch of scones to be eaten with my sister’s home made jam and thick cream.  The Belgian’s defected on the spot. 
Here is the recipe which is made of storecupboard ingredients.


Large mixing bowl
Palette knife
2 x  12×8″ baking trays – greased and floured
Rolling pin
2 ½ ” cutter
Cooling rack


15 oz / 450g white self-raising flour
½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
4oz / 120g butter
4oz / 120g white sugar
4oz / 120g raisins or sultanas
9floz / 280ml milk or half milk/half yoghurt


Pre-heat the oven to 230 / 450 / 8
Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl
Cut the butter into little pieces and rub into the flour until it is no longer visible
Stir in the sugar and dried fruit
Mix the milk into the mixture a little at a time, either with a palette knife or your hands, until a loose, sticky dough is formed (this may take less milk than you’ve measured out)
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll gently to about 1″ / 2.5cm thick
Dip the cutter into some flour and cut out the scones. 
Gently roll remaining dough into a ball, roll it out again and keep cutting
It should make about 17 scones
Brush the tops with a little milk to glaze
Place the scones on the greased and floured baking trays
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown
Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

Scones 31.08.09


Filed under Behaviour and Etiquette, Children, Family and Friends, Food, Indoor Activities, Outdoor Activities, Recipes, Storecupboard